Thursday, September 14, 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 3B
Beware of darkness: Mainstream adult film is back
By Jeffrey Bloomer
The battle cry of the collective American
audience is still echoing faintly amid the
masses, and it looks as if Hollywood has
finally taken the hint. This fall, a host of dark,
intense, unabashedly adult-oriented movies
will hit U.S. theaters. It started last weekend
with "Hollywoodland" and continues Friday
with Brian DePalma's "The Black Dahila"
the once-storied director's rumored-to-be-
OK incarnation of the James Ellroy novel.
And the weekly picture for autumn is
delightfully bleak across the board. Octo-
ber may have no fewer than three new
entries in three different horror franchises,
but those same weekends are a who's-who
of the industry's prize filmmakers: Martin
Scorsese, Sofia Coppola, Clint Eastwood,
Christopher Nolan. What are these people
doing in October?
The films in question are all probable
Oscar contenders - in a more typical sea-
son they would roll out slowly closer to the
holidays and into next year. But a series of
apocalyptic reports from sources as diverse
as the New York Times to Entertainment
Weekly might have the answer: the citizen's
arrest of box-office returns by the American
public last year, which created what was
touted as the industry's worst financial disas-
ter since the advent of home video in the late
'80s. Those days are long past with profits up
appreciably from last year, but it appears as
if it's finally beginning to affect the filmic
landscape from years past. Where once we
had industry-peddled flops like "Domino"
and "Elizabethtown" we now have "Marie
Antoinette" and "The Departed" in similar
frames, two provocative, challenging mov-
ies that can't depend on teenage boys for the
majority of their profits.
It's now common knowledge that the
purported recess in 2005 was a lot of hot
air: "The Passion of the Christ" inflated the
box office out of nowhere in 2004, the popu-
lar theory goes, and now we're supposedly
"ahead" in 2006 - which may or may not
directly correlate with the astonishing $417
million (and counting) box office for "Pirates
of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." But
the bottom line last year did indeed fall below
expectations, and a common sentiment in
the media (and among most adult moviego-
ing circles) was that the lagging profits had
more to do with the public's disillusionment
with the American multiplex. High prices,
long lines, cellphones and above all a per-
ceived drop-off in quality were to blame, and
popular Hollywood, never one to respect the
intelligence of its audience, has apparently
responded by doing just that.
"Dahlia;'forexample,has been in develop-
"I already told you. I'm sorry for 'Pearl Harbor.' "
ment for years, with David Fincher attached plate and midsummer actioneers. A week
to direct ina quiet return to his "Se7en" form later the same position will be filled by the
and Mark Walhberg (suddenly hot property long-awaited ensemble wet dream "All the
again) cast in a lead role. Now it will hit the- King's Men"; two weeks later it's the Leonar-
aters with a legendary director and an elegant do DiCaprio-led "The Departed"; two more
high-end marketing campaign that would weeks later it's "Marie Antoinette," "The
customarily be reserved for teenage boiler- Prestige" and "Flags of Our Fathers" on the
same weekend. It goes on like that through
the end of the year. The forthcoming months
are a celebratory parade of big-budget mov-
ies for and by adults, opening nationwide on
their first weekends, with the apparent hope
of bringing back in big numbers an older
See DARKNESS, page 7B
Continued from page 18
have been, largely, as atrocious
as their scripts (the wunder-
kind behind "Deuce Bigelow,"
for instance). Even worse than
bad movies, Ben has ended up
making films that were finan-
cial flops. This, of course, is
Hollywood's cardinal sin.
John Travolta once found
himself in a similar situation.
day Night Fever," post-"Look
Who's Talking Now." What
does a dancing comic light-
weight have to do for a little
Sleaze-out his long his hair,
holster an automatic and part-
ner up with Samuel L. Jackson
for some Tarantino-style hard
drugs and brutal violence, obvi-
ously. With "Pulp Fiction,"
Travolta went straight from
chasing around talking dogs
with Kirstie Alley to stabbing
Uma Thurman in the heart with
a hypodermic needle. If you
look up "comeback" in next
year's Webster's, that may be
its new definition.
There's another sort of stig-
matized career slump to avoid.
At least Travolta wasn't labeled
as box-office poison, like
Katherine Hepburn. In Travol-
ta's case, it was his range that
was underrated; it was Hep-
burn's appeal. Her own person
was deemed unlikable, an ice
queen too distant to relate to
the public. Now, almost 70
years and a handful of classics
later, Hepburn remains widely
revered in our cultural subcon-
scious for that same haughty
So which is it for Affleck
- is he underestimated by the
critics, or simply misread by
the public? How much of the
bile spewed his way for the last
few years has really been for
acting chops, and not just his
grossly overpublicized relation-
ship with a certain Ms. Lopez?
It'll be a while before we
truly find out. Affleck only has
one more film in the pipeline,
presumably due to the business
of a burgeoning family life,
and it's not out until next sum-
mer. But prospects are cheerier
for Ben than they've been in a
long time. He might have been
down, he might have been out,
but he just might be back soon.
- MacDonald be reached
JIM CARREY & KATE WINSLET
of the Spotless Mind
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